Public Program

The Miracle of Redemption: An Art Talk with Professor Gene Kangas

Marissa by Reverend Albert Wagner

"Marissa" by Reverend Albert Lee Wagner. Gift of Linda and Gene Kangas.

In conjunction with our current show Reverend Albert Wagner: Miracle at Midnight, Art Professor Emeritus Gene Kangas provides a lecture on Wagner, with whom he shared a 30-year friendship.

Hear about the first national retrospective of Reverend Albert Lee Wagner's autobiographical art. He is recognized as an important folk artist throughout America and is considered Cleveland, Ohio’s premier visionary artist.

Spanning the earliest, to the reverend's very last creations, the exhibition provides rich visual testimony to a life begun amidst dire poverty and racism in the South, to a self-made business success (despite Wagner's limited third-grade education), then a devolution into excess and lust, to final attainment of spiritual peace and love for all humanity.

Reverend Wagner was born into great poverty in rural Arkansas to a family of cotton pickers. There, he witnessed first-hand extreme prejudice and racial violence. Not until the family moved north to Ohio, did Wagner feel the freedom to speak out on the horrors he had witnessed and began making "story pictures," accompanied by his handwritten testimony.

The exhibition title commemorates the transformative moment when house paint spilled on a floor board and forever changed him as he prepared for his 50th birthday. Transfixed by the scene of pooling paint, Wagner experienced a spiritual epiphany, ending his womanizing ways and kicking off an intense period of religious service and art making that would endure until his peaceful death at the age of 82.

The lecture is free and open to the public. University professors teaching African American History, American Art History, Self-taught Artistry and Religious Studies are all encouraged to bring their classes.